Summary: So, if God is so good and so strong, why does He allow suffering? A look at answers for the Balconeers (those approaching it intellectually - "why?") and the Travellers (those in the midst of it asking "what now?")
Traveler or Balconeer?
• Why evil and suffering?
o No surprise that many of you wrote asking about this
o #1 in poll asking “If there was one question you could ask God…?” – 17%
o “If God is loving and if He is all-powerful and if He is good, then surely all of this suffering should not exist. And yet it does!”
o “The problem of pain is the question mark turned like a fishhook in the human heart.”
• Dilemma is – how to answer?
o Not just because I only have one sermon
o Not just because so deep and intricate
Millions upon millions of pages written and words spoken on this topic
Every religion struggles with it
Oldest written book in Bible – Job – 4,000 year ago – about this agonizing theme
o It’s difficult because not just an intellectual issue – it’s a deeply personal one as well
• J.I. Packer in “Knowing God”
o 2 kinds of interest in all questions of faith, especially when it comes to God and suffering and evil
“Balconeers” and “Travelers”
o Balconeers love to sit above it all and take it all in.
They ask a lot of why questions
They watch the poor souls struggling down the road of life and ponder the why questions
• “Where is God? Why doesn’t He stop the pain and suffering? Why doesn’t God care? Why doesn’t He help?”
But they are onlookers, and their problems are theoretical only.
o Travelers face problems which, though they have their theoretical angle, are essentially practical
“How do I make it through today?
“Where do I get the strength to survive?”
Problems of the “which-way-to-go” and “how-to-make-it” type
Problems which call not only for understanding, but for decision and action, too.
o The balconeer’s quest is to find an intellectual explanation of how evil and suffering can coexist with God’s power and goodness
But the traveler’s problem is how to make it through today and tomorrow.
• We’ll be looking at both today
• Not answer everything in 45 minutes – obviously
• Prayer is that you will take home something to hang onto; that God will touch your mind and heart in a deep way; that you will experience the God who knows your questions and pain and will meet you wherever you are at.
1/ For the Balconeer – the “Why” Questions
1. Is the evidence of suffering against God?
o Certainly, there is evidence in our world and experience against God – but it isn’t necessarily certain or conclusive
o There is evidence for and against God
“If there is no God, why is there so much good? If there is a God, why is there so much evil?” Augustine
o Evil’s presence can work as evidence for the existence of God
If no God, why not more evil
Where does our objective standard of good come from?
2. Is suffering the result of sin?
o Some, but not all
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” (Msg)
How the world works
• “Hot” means some will be burned
• “Gravity” means some will fall
• “Chocolate” means some will gain weight
3. What about free will?
o God is all-powerful, but can’t create self-contradictions
Not logically possible to give free will and no possibility of evil
A self-contradiction – a meaningless nothing – to have a world where there’s real choice and no possibility of choosing evil
• Like colorless color or a round square
o Once He allows human beings to be free:
It is up to us whether we follow Him or sin
He allows the possibility that we will spoil our lives and the world
• Would a couple want kids or puppets? Kids can love and be loved, but can also be a royal pain.
So the door is open to people choosing evil over God, with suffering as a result
o Source of evil not God’s power (or lack thereof), but our freedom (and its misuse)
Let me give you an example: We ask, “Why does God allow famine and hunger?”
The experts at World Vision – who make famine relief their full time job – say that famine is almost never caused by drought alone. It is almost exclusively caused by civil war. And civil war is something we choose to do to each other, not something that God chooses to do to us.